Monday Morning Quarterback Part II
By BOP Staff
December 23, 2008
Seven Pounds just wasn't weighty enough to get people's attentionKim Hollis: Seven Pounds, the latest from Will Smith, opened to $16 million. Why do you think audiences gave this one less of a chance than The Pursuit of Happyness?
Pete Kilmer: The marketing was really vague. I still have no real idea what it's about.
Brandon Scott: It's funny. There have been complaints aplenty about the marketing, and while I think awareness was low, I thought I had a reasonable grip on what to expect from this - as a movie. The guy helps seven people to make his life worth living or something? I don't know, I didn't see it. Clearly studios were banking on Smith...his headshot was the movie poster, but no action, poor critical reaction and a message that audiences clearly weren't sure about will indeed lead to this being his first sub $100 million film in a loooooong time. It would be the shock of the year if it got there after this limp opening weekend.
Shane Jenkins: This is the purest test of star power that I can think of. The trailers showed nothing, and didn't make an appealing case for the film. So nearly every dollar spent on Seven Pounds is based wholly on the appeal of Will Smith. I'm with Brandon, in that I think $100 million is a pipe dream at this point, since from what I've heard of the story, repeat viewings and recommendations will be non-existent.
Scott Lumley: First Carrey, then Will Smith. I gotta say folks, I'm not buying it. Between the weather and the the Christmas shopping, I think these films got robbed. I expect a strong bounce back next weekend from both films.
Sean Collier: It's the economy, it's the economy, it's the economy. Gas jumped down, but movie tickets and popcorn did not. The fact that absolutely no one - even those who've seen the film - can explain what Seven Pounds is doesn't help, but we can't blame snow and shopping entirely.
Eric Hughes: I agree the economy may have something to do with Seven Pounds' low opening figure, but I think what the prophets were saying earlier had more of an influence. The marketing department didn't paint a clear enough picture on what this one was about. So people, like myself, failed to rank the movie high on their priority lists - even if Will Smith appears to do an awful lot of running around in the rain.
Reagen Sulewski: Selling a movie based on a mystery is fine, but you have to make sure it's something people actually care to solve. "Why is Will Smith acting so strangely?" isn't one, quite frankly.
Max Braden: Everyone's chimed in on the negatives of Seven Pounds. The difference between the projects was that Pursuit of Happyness had an adorable kid, and audiences love that. Plus it was an optimistic underdog story. Seven Pounds didn't offer someone you really wanted to cheer for. Given the timing with the economy, the Seven Pounds story could be looked at as a bailout movie, and maybe audiences didn't want to be reminded that they weren't getting a personal bailout this season from some rich benefactor.
David Mumpower: Reviewing the replies so far, I agree with Shane and Sean, disagree with Max and previously discredited Scott (who Professor Mumpower has determined needs to re-take Remedial Box Office 101 now). I also want to add to Reagen's point, but let's start with Shane and Sean. Shane absolutely drills the fact that while people are saying "this is disappointing for a Will Smith film", it is, if anything, a remarkable feat of box office power that he could get this result from this project. It is very close to asking audiences to go in blind on a feature simply because Smith is in it.
With regards to Sean's comments, I have previously stated my concerns about the economy testing the theoretical extremes of that archaic maxim that the box office is recession-proof. We're seeing pretty clearly right now that it's not, just that it's less negatively impacted than other industries. As to Max's thoughts, I believe that Pursuit of Happyness was one of the most depressing-looking movies in recent memory. It wasn't the kid or the optimistic underdog story that saved that one. It was the combination of the film being genuinely great and it being a pure star vehicle, a combination that generally does very well in December.
The key to Seven Pounds' disappointment is something Reagen touched upon. Sony sold this one using the M. Night Shyamalan playbook where they built a mystery while hoping for benefit of the doubt. That's always a dangerous move with potentially disastrous implications if potential consumers are not convinced that it's a mystery worth an emotional investment. How many people knew what Seven Pounds would be about prior to entering theaters? Almost none. How many of Smith's more casual fans were seduced by the ads into wanting to go see the movie? Almost none.
Daron Aldridge: I have to back Shane's observation about testing the power of Will Smith for the sake of being Will Smith. The billboards showed nothing other than what looked like a DMV photo. The same argument could be made about the posters for Benjamin Button, but at least we know what that movie is about. For all the talk of the "mystery" behind Seven Pounds, it fell flat to me and didn't compel me to see it for answers. It just left me cold. Something to remember about Pursuit of Happyness is that it was based upon a best-selling autobiography also, so the optimism that Max mentions was well-publicized.